2012 is a year I will remember for many reasons, but the main reason is this:
Did you know that readers of this blog donated $2,500 to the National MS Society this year? Thanks to your contributions, our Walk MS team raised a total of $6,504!
When I told you that my friend Patrice Devincentis had lost her Sonic Surgery recording studio in Hurricane Sandy, you stepped up to the plate big time.
Donations to Sonic Surgery
Right now, part of my basement is taken over by audio equipment that was donated to Patrice, mostly by friends in the voice-over community.
Just when she thought her career was over, your help gave her hope and a chance to start rebuilding a studio and a career.
As soon as her recording space is ready, I will deliver all the gear on your behalf, but that’s not all.
When you go to the Sonic Surgery GoFundMe page, you’ll see that together we’ve raised over $2,600 for Patrice. We still have a long way to go before we’ll reach our $10,000 goal, but it’s a great start.
SPREADING THE NEWS
As readers, you’ve also been generous with your blog comments (all 2,658 of them), retweets, Facebook “likes” and all the other ways in which you helped my stories reach a wider audience. Thank you so much for that! It works and here’s the proof.
A story like the introduction of Studiobricks (a new type of vocal booth), has reached almost two thousand readers. Mike Bratton’s interview and review of the Studiobricks ONE cabin, has been seen over fifteen hundred times. But there were more reviews this year.
If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you know that I love writing about the business of being in business. Having a great voice doesn’t mean that you’ll automatically have a great voice-over career. You have to be a savvy entrepreneur as well.
When you open up shop, you’re all of a sudden the head of the advertising, marketing, sales and the customer service department. Are you sure you can handle that? Some customers can be a royal pain in the tuches, but you have to attract them first.
Now, all these ideas didn’t appear to me in a dream. It has taken me quite a few years of running a freelance business to come up with certain vital concepts. Trial and error are the slowest teachers, and I had to learn many of my lessons the hard way. I still remember the day I almost made a $10,000 mistake.
On an average day I spend at least eight hours in my vocal booth/office, and of course I blogged about life behind the mic. I gave you the grand tour of my studio in two installments.
In 2011, 44% of independent workers had trouble getting paid for their work. 3 out of 4 freelancers are paid late or not at all at least once in their careers. That’s why the New York-based Freelancers Union ran a campaign called “Get Paid, not played.”
I tend to write a lot about value and remuneration. Just click on the “Money Matters” category over on the right hand side of this blog and you’ll see what I mean. When my website got a make-over, I decided to publicly post my voice-over rates. Not everyone believed this was a wise move, so I wrote a story exploring the pros and cons of being open about fees.
One relatively new way to fund your business, is to use crowdsourcing. I asked audio book publisher Karen Wolfer to share her experience with Kickstarter. Another money-related topic that came up this year was this: Should you work for free for charity? On paper “giving back” sounds like the right thing to do, but is it always the case? As with any of the stories mentioned above, click on the blue link to read the full article.
TAKING CARE OF YOURSELF
Let’s move from wealth to health. I shall remember 2012 for one other reason. Never before have I written so much about fitness and well-being. In “Be kind. Unwind” I wrote about the importance of taking a break, being in the moment and leading a balanced life.
After meeting the globetrotting host of The Amazing Race Phil Keoghan, I discovered four principles to live in the spirit of NOW (No Opportunity Wasted). In August it was time for me personally to cut the crap and rid myself of excuses that had me trapped in an unhealthy, sedentary lifestyle.
MAKE A DIFFERENCE
All in all, 2012 has been a great year. We’ve had to weather some powerful storms, but the year was also packed with positive change.
It always amazes me how relatively small changes can have a huge impact. Imagine someone throwing a pebble into a pond. See how the ripple effect moves through the water in ever-widening circles. That’s the effect one individual act of generosity can have.
It happens when people who care, share what they have to give without expecting anything in return. It can be time, it can be money or -as in Patrice’s case- even audio equipment.
I am grateful and appreciative that you have chosen to take a few minutes out of your day, to see what I have to say. Many of you came back, week after week. Hopefully, you’ve found my stories and ideas helpful and worth sharing. If that’s been the case, I have news for you:
I’m not done yet!
In fact, I’m ready to push more envelopes, stir more pots and be more outspoken in 2013.
When it first came out, the voice-over community went a bit crazy.
How could an unknown company in Spain come up with something that costs less and is just as good -if not better- as the vocal booths we’re all used to?
One of the people reading that story was voice actor Mike Bratton. He had been in touch with the folks in Spain, when an exclusive offer caught his eye:
The first U.S. talent to order a new Studiobricks ONE booth, would receive a 30% discount if he mentioned the story on the Nethervoice blog
As soon as he read that, Mike contacted the CEO of Studiobricks, Guillermo Jungbauer, and he sealed what he called “the deal of the century.”
Last week, Mike Bratton assembled his very own booth, made of Studiobricks. And frankly, he needed it. I’ll let him tell the story:
MIKE TALKS STUDIOBRICKS ONE
“The neighborhood I live in is called Park Slope. It’s in Brooklyn, NY. It’s a fairly residential neighborhood, but my apartment building borders a very busy avenue ( Atlantic Ave.). Oh, and for the last 2+ years, we’ve had constant construction going on right out our window for the new Barclay’s Center arena that is now nearing completion at the end of our block.
So, to be honest, this booth would’ve been very useful over the last few years.
Luckily, our apartment windows are very good at keeping out the sound. They’re double-paned, and nice and quiet. The most noise I really get is from the neighbors upstairs. They tend to walk, jump, drop what can only be described as bowling balls, and seem to constantly move furniture around, directly over my head.
For the most part, it’s not that bad during my recording day, but the more work I do for the West Coast, the family is home up there, and they can get noisy.
This new booth will hopefully help with that as well… especially the floating floor!
My main reason for buying the booth when I did, is to prep for our new baby arriving this winter.
My previous booth, while excellent sounding, was terrible at keeping errant noises OUT. And for that matter, keeping my noisy voice IN.
So, since my office is now going to be part nursery (we call it the “surface), I needed a bit of a buffer… so if the little guy is sleeping nearby, I won’t wake him up, and if he does wake up, he won’t necessarily be a featured extra in whatever voice session I’m in the process of recording.”
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What can you say about the process of ordering your booth. Did Studiobricks understand your specific needs?
“Guillermo at Studiobricks was great (Guillermo Jungbauer is the CEO, PS). I contacted him first about pricing on the normal Studiobricks booths, and he told me about the ONE system that was forthcoming. I looked into the specs of that, and put them up against the usual contenders (GK, Vocalbooth.com, WhisperRoom™, etc. ), and they were very, very good. In fact, the sound absorption/blocking specs were at least as good if not better than the enhanced models from the main companies, and for a good bit less money. So, it was really a matter of just stepping off the cliff and taking the plunge.”
Was there a language barrier while communicating with Studiobricks or did that not play a role?
“There was very little problem with understanding one another. Guillermo completely got what I was asking whenever I had a question, and there never was really any issue in communication. Everything is always prompt, and thorough. In fact, it’s interesting, because he’s several hours ahead of me in Spain, and most of his responses came via email during MY business hours, which was pretty amazing.”
How long was the time between order and delivery?
“I ordered the booth at the tail end of July. August is a big vacation month in most of Europe, so he got the production in and done in a matter of about a week or two. It was shocking how fast the production of the booth was actually completed. Then it was a matter of the booth being picked up from the manufacturer and put on a boat, and shipping it overseas.
That process took a bit, but honestly, it basically took about 6 weeks (or less) from door to door, which is about average for what I was being quoted from the other companies. Other folks might have different results, depending on where in the US they’re located. It actually arrived at port in New Jersey on the 27th of August. My order date was 7/23… so a little over a month from origination to destination port. Then, I took delivery at my home on September 7.”
Did Studiobricks take care of all the shipping details for you?
“Everything was taken care of on Guillermo’s end. All I had to do was wait for the shipping company to contact me when the item was in transit, to give me updates on its tracking and once it arrived. It was seamless.”
Did you have any problems with customs?
“No problems at all. It did have to be held at port for a few extra days, as it got selected to be VACIS X-Rayed. Being that it was going into a holiday weekend (Labor Day) when it was selected, it took a few extra days for release.”
Did the entire package arrive in one piece?
“Indeed… one, gigantic, wooden-crated, incredibly heavy piece. You know, even if you buy a booth from domestic manufacturers like GretchKen and/or Vocalbooth.com, the panels still come on a big palette on a big truck. The only difference here is the shipping crate/container, and several thousand dollars. Even without the special extra discount, it was vastly cheaper than any of their domestic competitors (except Drum Perfect, which is the booth I had before ).”
What was it like to get it into your apartment?
“It arrived on a mid-sized moving truck. We had to open the crate while still on the truck, and moved all the pieces down to ground level. Thankfully, I live in an elevator building in Brooklyn. Because of the size and weight of the elements it helps to have a number of friends/ family that are willing to help you carry the things up for you, if you have a few stairs to climb.
To be fair, the door is the heaviest piece. It’s a real, honest-to-goodness studio door. All the bricks themselves are fairly lightweight, or at least, reasonable weight for one person to carry up a flight of stairs. The entire process from truck to home took about 45 minutes of steady effort. I highly recommend a hand-truck/dolly (or two) and some palettes with casters. It will make life much easier on you.”
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Tell me about putting the booth together. Was it as easy as advertised? Could you do it by yourself or did you need help?
“It was crazy easy. All the bricks are clearly labeled, and the instructions just tell you where to start., and you’re off and running. The most difficult and nerve-wracking part is seating the door frame. But that gets done fairly early on, and once it’s seated, you’re off and running.”
Did you run into any unexpected problems?
“Not really. The biggest issue I had, was at the end. I had one “horizontal stick” left over. I’m positive I put them in (they go in the corners) on every level, so I’m going with the theory that I had an extra. Because honestly, I don’t want to go back and take the thing apart to find out if I forgot to put in a piece. : )
Oh, also, unfortunately, the door handle seems to be broken… or at least, suffering slightly. I can only lock the door seals from the outside, and that really helps make the booth incredibly quiet. Guillermo has already responded and said that replacement parts will be in the offing, and I’ll be able to get the door back up and running properly within a matter of days… oh, on that front, the little power converter, supplied to run the ventilation system, was unfortunately broken in transit… but again, I made Guillermo aware, and it will be here with the door handle replacement. He’s really just so easy to work with.
And to be perfectly honest, to have this giant thing travel as far as it did, I’m impressed that it only had those two little problems.”
Note: the new door handles and power converter were sent from Europe on a Wednesday and they arrived and were installed on Friday.
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Did you use the Studiobricks Skype assembly service or did you have to contact Studiobricks in any other way while putting the studio together?
“Never needed the assembly service… it was that easy. In fact, my wife was shocked how quickly the thing went together… and again, it was just me, except she helped me (at 6 months pregnant no less!!! ) to marshal the door into place.”
What’s your overall impression of the product now that it has been put together.
“One word. WOW. It’s really impressive. The build-quality is outstanding. Honestly, it completely exceeded my expectations. It’s shockingly quiet… SHOCKINGLY. My wife went in, and I locked her in the booth for a few moments… and her eyes lit up when she realized how quiet I sounded outside the booth to her. My previous booth sounded awesome… great absorption… but it bled noises like crazy. The Studiobricks booth delivers a nice, quiet environment.”
What surprised you most?
“When you take the pieces out of the shipping container and lay everything out, it looks intimidating. Once you get the floor down, the first layer up, and the door frame… the assembly just flies.”
Does the StudiobricksONE keep ambient noise out as you had hoped it would?
“YES! So far so good! In all honesty, I’ve found that studios, especially networks, are so used to working with talent that have home studios, that they’re pretty forgiving of a dog bark, a noisy upstairs neighbor, or even a tv playing quietly in the background, because it just doesn’t print as loud as my voice does on the mix.
That being said, noises wreak havoc with your concentration, and you worry that it will affect the recording quality, which in turn will make your performance less than what you want it to be.
Now, I’ve been working just fine up to this point with my previous booth, and as I said, it sounded terrific. But, we have a baby on the way, due in December and my previous booth would’ve been exactly zero help in keeping out any noises that a hungry newborn might make. It also would’ve been the same for trying to keep Daddy’s loud blathering on and on away from sensitive baby ears.
I think, just from the scant 24 hours or so that I’ve had to play with the Studiobricks, that this booth will serve me well. Is it sound “proof?” No. Is it better than any standard walled booth I’ve ever been in? Absolutely. It frankly rivals some booths I talk in regularly in Manhattan, and those are $10K and higher custom booths. You can buy them for your home, and in fact, the company is based in New York, but as we say here in Brooklyn: “Fuhgeddaboudit”, Studiobricks is where it’s at.”
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What do you think of quality of the wall treatment inside the booth?
“The Wall treatments are good. They’re made by Vicoustic, which is a new player on the scene I think, or at least, they’re new to me. They’re another European audio company. I think they’re similar to Auralex, but much denser, and easier to deal with. They’re backed with some serious adhesive, and you just peel and stick. No muss, no fuss.
Frankly, comparing them to Auralex does Vicoustic a disservice. I’ve never really liked Auralex that much, but always regarded it as a necessary evil. Luckily my previous booth didn’t have Auralex, but it had absorbing materials inside the wall coverings. It was a great system.
I might want some additional treatment though. It’s not as dead as my previous booth was, and so it’s a bit disturbing to my ears, but again, I’m just not used to it yet. Hell, it might actually sound better. My ears just aren’t accustomed to it yet. But if I do get more treatment for the walls, I will definitely get the Vicoustic pieces. Because, not only do I think they’re nicer than Auralex, they’re just dead sexy lookin’ too!”
Mike’s voice-over clients aren’t going to care as much about the looks of his new booth. They want to know what it sounds like. Have a listen:
StudiobricksONE with ventilation unit
Mike also ordered a ventilation unit from Studiobricks. How would that affect the recordings made in this 4′ by 3′ booth? You be the judge:
Voice talent and coach Jonathan Tilley is based in Germany. Just as Mike, he read my blog and he is now another proud owner of a Studiobricks ONE booth, and he couldn’t be happier. He produced the following video review of his new booth:
Meanwhile, Mike Bratton has offered to answer all your questions in the comment section below. That way, it stays all in one place and you don’t have to hop from site to site to find answers.
One of the things people wanted to know is the ambient noise level in and outside of the booth. For this, Mike took his trusted Neumann U87 and recorded the following:
The Studiobricks ONEretails at about $3,500 (depending on the exchange rate of the Euro). Tax and shipping is not included. There’s a wide range of colors to choose from, and you can even have your logo on your booth. How cool is that?
All Mike has to do, is wait for the baby!
Please contact Studiobricks for details at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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